For many years we’ve tried to record underwater sound effects using everything from a microphone in a plastic bag to an old Zoom H2 recorder in a plastic waterproof tub. It’s safe to say we’ve never full been able to capture real underwater recordings. So we decided enough was enough and we splashed out (excuse the pun) on an Aquarian Audio H2a hydrophone. While this isn’t a review, we’ll tell you a little about it and what we used it for recently…
The microphone itself comes in different length variations up to 15 metres on their website, or a custom length for an extra fee. We opted for the 3m as we really couldn’t see us using it below those depths. The microphone comes neatly packed into a cardboard box, perfectly coiled (and I know we’ll never be able to replicate this) with a small sheet of info and specs. The build quality of the microphone is superb. The metal housing for the actual capsule is rock solid and this feels like it can take a bashing. The cable is nicely protected in a tough sheath.
Connecting the microphone requires a recorder with plugin power. We tested our’s out with a Zoom H5. Because of the nature of the microphone and the recordings it captures, it really isn’t required to plug this into the most high-end unit out there.
Recording with the microphone
The first thing I noticed was that you really do need to use a boom pole with this if you plan to drop it over a sea wall, off a pier or some other platform. I just dropped it off the side of a low jetty and the current soon swept it underneath. So a pole would have helped me angle the microphone further away so that the current wasn’t an issue. Like any microphone, the holding the cable directly produces a fair amount of handling noise so again a pole would have helped eliminate this. A really good idea I saw someone do on a website was to use a pool noodle, wrap the cable around it and let it float.
The quality is fantastic, very low-noise recordings (I noticed almost zero hiss) and it performs well. With this being my first attempt at recording with such a microphone I noticed that you need to make sure you test the depth of the water you’re placing the microphone in first, otherwise you’ll end up hearing lots of rubbing and scraping sounds as the microphone rests near or on the bottom of the seabed or riverbed etc.
The first thing we did was to place the recorder around 1 metre deep in a swimming pool. I used the pool pole to get the microphone a little way out, away from the edges. Then I used my foot to record some simple splashes and movements. Next up I used a hose and recorded lots of different spraying, close to and away from the microphone and simulated rain.
After this I took a trip down the the local river mouth (right by the sea and a boat ramp) and recorded boats passing and also some very strange crackling sounds. I initially thought it could have been the sound of shrimp claws, but based on further research, it appears it was actually the sound of small stones and sand hitting the jetty in the current.
All these free underwater sound effects can be downloaded here and with plenty more planned, we’ll have lots more for you soon, so watch this space!